In 1950, the world human population numbered 2.5 billion. In 1987, the global human population has doubled since 1950, and for the first time, it has exceeded the 5 billion mark. Furthermore, with the continuation of this growth pattern, estimated by demographic researchers, this number is projected to double once more in about 40 years (Raven 48).
The rapidly population has caused many incalculable effects on the earth, and scientists have been warning the world of such costly events. According to their studies, tropical forests, equivalent to the size of Washington state, which measures about 17 million hectares, disappear every year, and the disappearance has contributed to the to rising of global temperatures (Piotrow, and Green C3). Eventually, long-turn deforestation will ultimately lead to the extinction of the majority of plant, animal, and microorganism species (Raven 49). In addition, the reduction in fish catches caused by polluted oceans, the piling up of refuse in the cities, the worsening air, and water quality, the spread of poverty, and the dwindling supply of food for the growing number of people, have all triggered scientists to urge the nations of the world to slow human population growth (Piotrow, and Green C3).
Further, according to researchers, about ninety-five percent of this runaway population growth occurs in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and with less ability to cope with the increasing number, many of the most critical environmental problems are also taking place there (Raven 48). Among these nations, China is a country notoriously know as the world’s most populous country, has taken the foreseeable which disaster seriously, and for more than two decades, it has launched various policies to contain its population growth. The result of its endeavor has been rather remarkable; however, its dictatorial enforcement has started a controversial chapter in human history.
In 1949, the people’s Republic of China was established, and I 1990, the Fourth national Census was conducted. In 1949, the new China had 583 million people, and I 1990, the result of the census shows the country’s human race numbered 1.134 billion (Tian 2-3). In addition, since 1949, the country has encountered three baby booms in its astounding population growth history, and until the present, the country is still experiencing its third explosion in human growth (Hou 26-27).
Under Chairman Mao’s leadership, the first baby boom started in the early 1950’s, and second baby boom started in 1963 (Hou 26). During that time, Chinese couples were encouraged to produce more children, because of Chairman Mao’s deeply-rooted belief that the number of a nation’s humans was a tactical advantage (Deane 18). During the first two booms, China overlooked the real condition of its population growth rate, and even though a nationwide population-planning program was introduced in 1970 in response to the rapid growth, it was never fully enforced, because the Chinese government was unaware of the costly consequences of overpopulation. By 1985, China had entered its third boom which was instigated by the offspring of the second baby boom as they reached their peak reproductive years (Hou 26-28).
In response to the continuously growing population, the Chinese government finally focused on the issue, and began with controlling marriage licenses starting in late 1970’s. In order to effectively control early marriages, which tend towards early child bearing, a marriage law has been imposed to outlaw marriage for males under the age of 22, and females under the age of 20. In fact, this law has been proven successful in reducing the number of offspring per female, and Population Council has credited this policy for deferring millions of births over the past two decades (China A15)
By 1979, the government has expanded its control over family planning, and the One-Child-Policy was officially introduced. As the name suggests, this policy strongly recommends the phenomenon of only child per couple, and the policy was later emphasized to become a nationwide goal (Deans 17-18). After the initial introduction of the One-Child-Policy, heavy propaganda was utilized by the Chinese government to promote both the advantages of smaller-sized families, and alternatives for birth control. Although the Chinese officials alleged that they intended only to encourage people to adopt this new implemented rule, in many situations, the limitation on family size cannot be ignored, nor ignored, nor disobeyed by Chinese couples, and in recent years, some cases do result in mistreatment by the government authorities. For example, in one case, ten husbands were “…beat[en]….with a stick….” By the family planning officers, because their pregnant wives “….refused to have abortions”(Deane 20-21).
Realizing the difficulties existing in enforcing in enforcing the One-Child-Policy, but believing that it is necessary, policymakers have constructed various reinforcements, and punishment, to aid its administration. Just like other systems, the Chinese government reinforces obedience, and punishes disobedience. For example, couples those volunteers to comply with the One-Child-Policy usually find the outcome very rewarding. The government has used job advancements, better housing, or even monetary compensations to reward people for their compliance. On the other hand, couples that refuse to follow the rules are frequently penalized, and the penalties vary, from loss of employment, or heavy fines, to physical punishments (Deane 19-20). Nevertheless, the majority of Chinese still find very difficult to conform with the One-Child- Policy, because the policy itself totally contradictory to their beliefs from their five thousand years of culture.
According to traditions, large families are highly valued in China, and boys are more valuable than girls, because in the old times, manpower was considered the way to prosperity. In addition, the family names are carried on the boys only, and continuation of the family name is the most important honor in one’s life. On the other hand, a Chinese female child is usually a disgrace to her family, and customarily, a Chinese girl marries out of her family, and thereafter, she belongs to the in-law’s family (Deane 19). In fact, one popular old Chinese saying has praised the male child as a “piece of jade,” and denounced the female child as a “piece of brick.”
Besides the continuation of their family lines, Chinese male children are also responsible for supporting their aged parents, and without a retirement system, Chinese parents feel very insecure about aging. In their traditional views, having a male child is the distinction between starving, and being well fed (Deane 19). In addition, the two greatest happiness every Chinese parent dreams about are having a long life, and having a child to take care of him or her when they becomes aged. Conversely, the worst nightmare of a Chinese family is not having a son.
Indeed, the birth of a male child in a Chinese family is described by an old saying as having “a son fulfills ten thousand wishes.” Therefore, when the One-Child-Policy came into effect, the Chinese were torn between their beliefs, and the government policy. However, when they come to realize the face that they can only have one child, everyone wants a boy.
Just as waling on a tightrope, trying to balance between the combination of the traditional Chinese values, and the One-Child-Policy is a tough challenge. As they struggle to preserve their traditions within the thin lines of the One-Child-Policy, the Chinese have provoked many unexpected consequences.
For example, without proper sex education from an early age, the majority of Chinese women have only little knowledge about birth control, and even when contraceptive methods are made available to them, many have refused to use them, because of their conservative views. As a result, when a Chinese woman becomes pregnant after her apportioned child, she is regularly visited by the local administrator, and under their overwhelming influences, later pregnancies are repeatedly terminated through abortion (Deans 20-21). Mostly, the abortions are done during the first three months of the pregnancy; however, in some situations, when the “….women resist, only to cave in under mental bullying further into their terms, abortions are also done in the later months of pregnancy, sometimes up [un]till the eighth month” (Deane 21).
In addition, dealing with the restrictions of the One-Child-Policy, and the importance of having a son to a Chinese family, many Chinese couples are ready to sacrifice an insignificant daughter for a precious son. Therefore, besides the disallowed pregnancies, abortions are also performed on unwanted pregnancies. For example, ultrasound techniques are commonly misused for sex selecting purposes, and many female fetuses are being aborted, because of gender preference. The results of this on population, show that in 1990, the Beijing government had become aware of the seriousness of the misapplication of ultrasound techniques, and a law has been imposed to prohibit Chinese doctors from revealing the sex of a child to the expectant parents before its birth. However, since bribes are customarily used arrangement to skirt the law in Chinese culture, this law has not been very effective (Deane 19).
In approximate figure from the Chinese government, about 10.5 million abortions are performed each year (Deane 20-21). However, many suspect that the real number is a lot higher, because the local directors are usually pressured by the central government to achieve the designated goal, therefore, the reported numbers are often manipulated in order to impress the popularity of birth-control practices (China A15). In reality, under the restrictions of the One-Child-Policy, abortion has become the number one resolution for disallowed or unwanted pregnancies, and it has progressively merged into the Chinese culture (Deane 21).
Also newly added to the Chinese culture, the phrase “black children” was used for the first time in Chinese history (Deane 20). The “black children” are the “[h]undreds of thousands of unregistered little girls….[,]” and they are usually hidden away, or abandoned by their parents (Deane 19-20). These little girls are kept off the government system’s rolls, and therefore they don’t get food allotments, they can’t be admitted into the school system, receive no health care, or immunizations, and they live as second-class citizens, scattered throughout the vast countryside of China (Deans 20). Unfortunately outlawed, and victimized by the One-Child-Policy, these little girls are the insignificant daughters that have been given up by their helpless parents, for their priceless brothers, and even before their births, their predetermined gender has already destined their unfortunate fates.
Furthermore, as similarly effected by the One-Child-Policy as those unrecorded little girls, each year, many Chinese women are forced to leave their homes, and go underground to have their unlawful babies. In China, these women are refer as the “….guerrilla moms….[,]” and now “they become part of China’s 40 million-strong floating population….” (Deane 19). Basically, these expectant mothers are on a mission in quest for a boy, and constantly, they move from one place to another to avoid being caught. In many incidents, when the mother has given birth to a female child, the baby girl is deserted, and the mother will soon joint the “guerrilla moms” again (Deane 19-20).
Another one of the many unintentional results of the One-Child-Policy, is the imbalance of the sex ratio. According to global demographic studies, the average human ratio in gender at birth is about “….105[,] and 106 boys for every 100 girls” (Deane 19). Beginning in the 1980’s, the sex percentage in China has been increasing constantly, and over the years, it developed from the average to 110 male children per 100 female children in 1993 9Deane 20). Gradually, the Chinese government has become apprehensive about this dramatic reduction in female children, and the government operated China News Service has made an announcement which indicated “….at least 1 million boys will be unable to find wives in 20 years’ in the Guangxi province (Deane 20). Obviously, both the massive abortions of female fetuses, and the underground female children have both aggregated to this astonishing ratio (Deane 19-20).
Finally, the newest product of the One-Child-Policy is “….a generation of spoiled children” (Deane 17). The Chinese attribute the cause of these spoiled children to “….the 4-2-1 syndrome—four doting grandparents, two overindulgent parents, all pinning their hopes, and ambitions on one child” (Deane 18). Since most of the only-child’s parents spent their childhood years in the confusion of the Cultural Revolution, and during that time, they have been deprived of all childhood fun, therefore they have decided to give everything that they have missed, to their only-child (Deane 18).
In many Chinese families, the parents don’t know the proper way to raise their children, and by simply spoiling their children, the new generation they have produced become sluggish, egotistical, disrespectful to their elderly, and ungrateful (Deane 17-18). For example, in order to feed his five-year-old granddaughter supper, a grandfather had to chase her around the house, as he “….bark[ed] like a dog[,] or mew[ed] like a cat” to entertain her, and if his performance was “….authentic enough, she [would] reward him by accepting a mouthful of food “ (Deane 18). In another example, a mother was “….Summoned by a shout, [to] get up ….[,] and position a bottle under the covers for [her eleven-year-old son]”, because she doesn’t want him to “….get up in the night…” to go to the restroom (Deane 18).
In addition, the only child is generally very loved, especially the boys, and since the Chinese way of love usually means to feed loved ones with extra food, overweight has become a problem for many children, particularly among the boys. The director of endocrinology, Dr. Ni, estimated “…about 5% of children in China’s cities are obese…,” and the number of obese children is still increasing rapidly. In Beijing, the overweight problem has become noticeable, and the Children’s hospital started “….the first American-style fat farm for obese children…” in 1992 in response to the growing number of overweight children (Deane 17).
Evidentially, the result of the controversial One-Child-Policy has been outstanding, and based on the Chinese’s government’s calculation, the policy has stopped about 200 million births after its introduction (Deane 21). However the apparent transformation of the Chinese society has been alarming, and to combat the worsening situations, the Chinese government has already taken many different approaches.
For instance, in an effort to ease the anxiety about financial dependence when becoming aged, in the cities, lots of companies, and many white collar workers places, are all provided with pension plans (Hou 28). Additionally, in some towns, a retirement insurance policy named “….girl insurance….[,]” has been given to parents who have a female child, and willing to be limited to that only-child (Deane 19). Moreover, the government has been putting forth-great effort to educate its people about its population crisis, and about birth control, and it has also made contraceptive devices more really available to the public (Deane 20-21). However, changing traditional value is not easy, and after 14 years of trying, the Chinese are still not persuaded that One-Child-Policy will guide them “….to a wealthier, healthier[,] and happier life” (Deane 21). China, still has a long way to go.
“China Imposed New Marriage Law.” World Journal. 26 Feb. 1994: A: 15.
Deane, Daniela. “The Little Emperors.” Los Angeles Times Magazine. 26 Jul. 1992, Los Angeles, Calif. Ed,: 17-21.
Hou, Ruili. “Population Problems on the Eve of the 1990 Census.” China Today. Mar. 1990: 26-29.
Piotrow, Phyllis Tilson, and Cynthia P. Green. “ Too Many People: The population Bomb Keeps on Ticking.” Washington Post. 23 Aug. 1992, Washington, D.C. ed.: C : 3.
Raven, Peter H. “A world in Crisis.” USA Today. May 1989: 48-50.
Tian. H. Yuan. “China’s Demographic Dilemmas.” Population Bulletin. Jun. 1992: 2-8.
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